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Solving the Identity Challenge: Three Ways to Market to Guests Better


Imagine this: You’re a marketing professional in the travel and hospitality industry and you just launched an email campaign offering a special vacation package for a family of four. You sent it to more than 50,000 prospective travelers. Sounds good, right? But what if 30 percent of your list is single travelers and 25 percent are couples without kids. Your offer wasn’t relevant to more than half of the prospects, resulting in a poor brand experience for the non-relevant recipients, wasted resources and marketing dollars.

It may seem like common sense, but a successful marketing campaign is rooted in relevant messaging – particularly with a product that only appeals to a portion of the population. And relevancy is rooted in the ability to understand the target audience. But one of the challenges facing marketers in the travel and hospitality industry is the sheer volume of data available to analyze and gain that understanding.

For example, people use a combination of mobile devices and digital channels to research and book travel – oftentimes, the research takes place over the course of several days, if not weeks or months. The hundreds of customer touchpoints make it difficult for hotels, airlines and online travel agencies to recognize potential travelers and their specific position in the decision funnel, and subsequently cater to their preferences by offering relevant vacation packages, loyalty programs and hotel/airline credits, among other offers. Too many of these companies view these touchpoints as isolated events rather than a cohesive story.

However, there are certain best practices that can help marketers in the travel and hospitality industry overcome these challenges, better understand their audience and implement effective marketing campaigns.

  1. Determine What Data to Capture

One of the first questions marketers in the travel and hospitality space need to ask is, “What is the problem I am trying to solve?” Are you a hotel or airline looking to market a new loyalty program to the right guest or traveler? Are you an online travel agency looking to increase the number of trips that are booked in a particular region or expand your customer-base to include seasonal travelers? Invest the time to clarify the challenge your company is facing.  

eMarketer recently forecasted that marketers will spend nearly $10 billion this year on digital advertising in the travel industry alone. Identity is a critical part of the data problem. Marketers that rely on first-party data assets to determine the customer touchpoints that help build the audience’s identity may begin to realize that siloed data within the organization is inhibiting their ability to achieve a single-customer view. A holistic identity resolution strategy will also include the use of third-party data to enrich customer profiles. The collective datasets can help marketers determine the propensity for people to travel, which seasons they are most likely to travel during and if they tend to travel for business or leisure. Additionally, the data sets can provide insight into the activities they’d be most interested in while traveling – leading to messages that resonate, relevant travel packages, communication through preferred channels and the optimization of future campaigns.

  1. Incorporate Technology

Identity resolution is defined as the strategic capability of connecting separate, disparate data from offline and online sources to create a three-dimensional view of the customer. Integrating technology is an important component to streamlining the customer experience. Travel and hospitality brands should consider integrating data storage platforms with a fulfilment and reporting solution, such as email service providers, display networks and marketing automation and intelligence tools. In today’s omni-channel world, where customers are showing up across different devices, both online and offline, technology helps to bring the customer journey together in one consolidated view so that brands can better understand their behaviors. By having a better picture of the different ways customers are interacting with their brands during their customer journey, they can make the right offer and ultimately build more customer-centric relationships.

  1. Build Customer Trust and Loyalty

According to a survey by Segment, 71 percent of consumers express frustration when an experience feels impersonal, and 76 percent express concern when a brand gets their name wrong in communications. These frustrations gradually diminish customer trust, and ultimately loyalty, over time. First-time guests could be less inclined to re-book with a hotel or airline. Other instances can lead to negative chatter over social media or consumers who unsubscribe from communications and offers. Using data to recognize loyal and potential guests alike, travel marketers have a better shot at building mutually beneficial relationships in the long run.

While data presents its challenges in travel and hospitality, it is also a compelling opportunity for marketers looking to better connect with travelers. The key is to know what data to capture and use it to understand the target audience, find the technology solution that fits the brand, and bring the two together to offer the right experiences to the right people. What works in one market can greatly differ in other markets across the globe. At the end of the day, hotels, airlines, and more, have the data and tools at hand to make the right marketing decisions and deliver an effective marketing campaign, ultimately seeing more return on investment.

  • About the Author

    Aimee Irwin serves as VP of Strategy at Experian Marketing Services.  Aimee is a skilled strategy and corporate development executive with deep experience in digital marketing and advertising and track record of success in developing and building profitable new digital and mobile businesses at both early stage and public companies.

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